Travel in Space


Where the Methods and Means of Traversing the Cælestial  Void are illustrated

Embracing the skies

Without the universe's gift of antibaric matter, travel into space would be impossible. There is no cannon great enough or a dirigible light enough to challenge the supremacy of Earth's gravity: and if you did build that cannon and shot yourself into orbit, there would be hardly any point to it because the deceased are as useless in space as they are on Earth.

But as it is, humanity has reached the outer limits of our astronomical home. We have travelled to our sibling planets, to Mercury, even Vulcanus: we have ridden the waves of the sun, and drifted through the asteroid belt, and soon we may even visit Jupiter and its worlds. But what makes this all possible?

Obviously the most important part of any trip to space is the escape from the gravity of Earth. This is done by the use of antibarides, in specialised elevator-ships that move between the surface and orbit with the help of simple propulsion and the negative weight, the levity of the antibaric counterweights present on all such elevators.

Antibaric matter is expensive and rare, and it is here that it will usually end at, as the "'giston" mined from Nemesis' Tail and the Moon or the meteoric "phlodge" falling to Earth is used to build more elevator-ships. Then these elevator-ships take part in a cycle that has been created to bring more antibaric matter down to Earth. Mining for antibarics is the greatest reason Man has to enter the Abyss, ironic in itself - for what else do we use that matter for, but travelling to space?

The reasons

The question is mostly rhetoric, because antibarics are useful otherwise than adorbital flight. And even if the sole reason for space travel is space travel itself, that is enough - because what exists within space is much greater than the simple path that takes us to it! Technology based in the vacuum and nongravity of space is now vital to heavy industry, all of industry, and has brought us many things we couldn't create down on Earth. Space teaches us more of the Universe, and we can use that knowledge to better our lives, and those of others. And space has taught of us of other life than ourselves.

For in the minds of anyone, even gistoneers and others who labour for their bread in space, travel in the caelestial spheres is about Humanity, and other Humanities. The life we have discovered on our sibling planets, Venus and Mars, and on our beloved Moon is the greatest of all discoveries

Further means - the aether

Beyond Earth, other means are needed for moving between the stars. The earliest ships of caelonavistry used simple matter-propulsion, of black powder rockets and steam pushers, anything that could be used to push back. But mechanisms like this have their limits, and travel even to the simplest target, the Moon, was difficult and expensive.

This all changed with the discovery of the volutive aether. The aether is, as is known, a sea of a great amount of particles orbiting the sun. If the aether was of a greater nature, or if it was of some other composition of movement, it would clog the wheels of our Solar System and pull all the planets into the Sun with it. Thankfully, this does not happen, because the aether particle is so small and so strange within the space it occupies, that it does not bother ordinary matter at all. Though it may be found inert in the planets, attracted by their gravity, it hardly interacts with matter at all; but it could.

This was discovered when two men of research, Jacques Fointaigne and Frederich Engelsich studied the properties of certain crystallised metallic amalgamations of matter. In their laboratory, they found that very small amounts of the crystals proved unstable, brittle, and prone to break apart for no discernible reason. Larger amounts of the matter didn't break down - but it did have strange reactions, like vibrating, or even releasing light.

They later found out the reason. It seemed there was some sort of force or other element unknown to science that disturbed the bonds within the crystals - or the opposite, that the crystals were an aberration that disturbed the flow of that strange element. They half-jokingly called the element "aether", and set off to discover more about it, and the rest is known to us in the form so romantised by writers and playwrights: the aether sail and, later, the aether propeller.

The crystals Fointaigne and Engelsich discovered where the first found aetherides. Because the aether moves in the space between matter without interacting with it (except through gravity and such forces), if one blocks the movement, the frequency or the like of it, the aether will actually collide with the the matter: there will seem as if there is an invisible wind pushing against the crystals. Because these combinations of matter are rare, and because they would be constantly bombarded by the aetheric wind, it is extremely rare to find such matter in nature.

This is the main means of attaining velocity in space: because the aether moves, and a sail made out of an aetheride matter can tap into that movement, a ship can steal a little velocity from the aetheric current around the Sun, like a sailing ship in the wind. But the force taken from the aether wind is relativelly small: the current around the Sun does not move at much greatest speeds than other celestial objects on such paths, and thus more velocity is always needed; that provided by aether propellers.

Aether propellers are turbines and engines with a "below-surface" part made out of aetherides. These propellers are used to push forwards in the aether stream: a good way of imagining it is like a ship underwater, without the ship and only a propeller. Just like with the aether-sailers before, the material components of the ship (except for the aetheride sails or propellers) do not interact with the aether, which thus does not provide almost any drag at all.

The next step in this is the minor matter of eliminating propeller drag when coasting the ship: the earliest models of propeller ship needed to be run all the time, or the drag of the stopped propellers would decelerate the ship. This was solved by the aethermech Johan Qvistgran, who discovered an aetheride amalgam, quistgranide, that could be "deactivated" for a while by running an electric current through it. The aetheride loses its aetherokinetic capabilities for a while, and thus does not provide any drag through the aether.

Deceleration at the end of a path is simple: by reversing the aethersails one can create an aether dragger, which will slow down the ship to low aether speeds.

A promising future means of aetheric propulsion that is being tested is simply using the weak repulsive aetheric force to create aetheric siphons or pushers using concentrated aether within aetherides. The aetheric repulsor would simply create a constant propulsion by pushing free aether away from itself, if the repulsor is shielded from free aether at the front and sides, and would only have contact with free aether at the aft.